Cropping a Balloon
A firm favourite for visitors wanting to ride on a 'traditional' Blackpool tram is undoubtedly open top 706, otherwise referred to as 'Princess Alice'. Up until this tram's head on collision at the Pleasure Beach with sister car, 705, it had been an unremarkable member of the 27 strong fleet of 'Balloon' cars. Originally on its delivery in 1934 number 243 as it was first numbered was in fact open top: one of thirteen examples from 237 to 249. The war called for their being given enclosed top decks to the same styling (more or less) as the fully enclosed version delivered a year later and number 250 to 263.
It was initially assumed that 706 would follow the same fate as its cousin 705 which was dismantled, donating its bogies and other items to the Merseyside group responsible for the restoration of Liverpool car 762 to working condition. However with the Tramway Centenary looming the opportunity was taken to both repair the damaged end of 706 and to return its bodywork to original open top state. This fortuitously was completed at Rigby Road in time for the tram to take part in the wonderful Centenary Parade in September 1985. Thereafter every summer it has joined the surviving 'boat' cars (now much reduced in numbers) to provide an open tram ride experience for visitors - naturally in fair weather.
After thirty years service, the time has arrived for 706 to receive a major overhaul at Rigby Road. Well deserved. It is therefore useful to look back to 1985 to catch glimpses of the original 'reconversion' work carried out at Rigby Road Works.
Above : A final glimpse of 706 before the removal of the top deck pillars and window frames in the Body Shop. Work begins on reconstructing the top deck panels inside the Body Shop.
Copyright : John Woodman Archive